Table of Contents
  1. The ingredients in this taco salad
  2. Watch how to make this classic taco salad recipe
  3. Classic Taco Salad Recipe

Taco salad really is an ode to my childhood and that may be an oddity. I’d wager a guess that most people wouldn’t think of childhood and taco salad synonymously. During the summers, my dad would work late on the farm, my mom would be in the garden until dark, and when we all came inside, we were hungry and tired.

Mom’s fallback meal was taco salad. Depending on the time of year, we’d use lettuce from the garden, quickly make taco-seasoned ground beef, and pull out whatever toppings were in the refrigerator.

This recipe really harkens back to those childhood flavors with a few updates that make it more of a meal.

Top down view of taco salad being assembled on plates on white countertop with bowl of meat mixture, plates already filled with taco salad, cheese, limes, red dressing, guacamole, and tortilla chips
I love to serve these taco salads with my favorite tropical guacamole!

The ingredients in this taco salad

  • Ground beef is always in my freezer and can easily be transformed into something flavorful. In this recipe, I use chili seasoning, cumin, and Mexican oregano to create a Tex-Mex flavor profile.
  • Fire-roasted tomatoes are a secret ingredient that will always increase the flavor of a recipe. By default, canned tomatoes already have more flavor than any out-of-season tomato. But when they’re fire-roasted, the flavor is even greater!
  • Red kidney beans are an homage to my mom’s use of canned chili beans. Personally, I don’t love pre-seasoned chili beans, which is what you usually find. So I add these kidney beans instead. They extend the heartiness of the meat and provide a welcome creamy texture.
  • Ketchup is the base of a red dressing, which is what is poured over the salad. I use sugar-free ketchup just to control the sugar. I find that this version of ketchup tastes the same. Less sugar is always a win in my book!
  • Red wine vinegar adds sweetness and more depth of flavor than other kinds of vinegar. The flavor works well with the ketchup and mellows the bright flavor of the ketchup.
  • Honey is absolutely necessary to balance the acidity in the dressing. Just enough honey is added to ensure the dressing does not become sweet, simply balanced.
  • Worcestershire sauce is a great way to add immense flavor to dressings. The flavor is one that you can’t quite pick out, but it really rounds out the dressing.
  • Chipotle powder, onion powder, and garlic powder are the spices that make this a good dressing for a taco salad. If you want to avoid spice, you can swap out smoked paprika for the chipotle powder.
  • Avocado oil (or any neutral-flavored oil) is used to provide richness and body to the dressing.

More Cinco de Mayo recipes

Spoon drizzling red colored salad dressing on top of taco salad with guacamole and tortilla chips on side with container of salad dressing in background

This is a great salad for so many reasons. One of the best parts is the fact that the leftovers can be used in multiple ways:

  • The unused meat and bean mixture can become quesadillas, tacos, or even a wrap.
  • The dressing can be used on other salads or as a sauce on top of any of the above ideas.

This recipe has brought back my love for taco salads and I can see it becoming a weekly staple again. I hope it does in your home too!

Watch how to make this classic taco salad recipe

YouTube video
Top down view of white plate sitting on countertop filled with large taco salad with guacamole and chips on the side

Classic Taco Salad

4.91 from 10 votes
Growing up on a farm, a classic taco salad was a staple! During the summer, when we'd all get in late from outdoor chores, the easiest thing to throw together was this recipe. And what's great is that each eater can customize it for their personal preference. Consider this a weeknight meal solution!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 8 servings


For the meat

  • 1 lb ground beef (I use 92% lean)
  • ½ medium onion diced
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp dried Mexican oregano
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 15-oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 15-oz can red kidney beans rinsed and drained

For the dressing

  • 3 tbsp ketchup
  • 1 ½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp chipotle powder
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • cup neutral oil

For the salad

  • 2 heads romaine lettuce chopped
  • tortilla chips
  • avocado or guacamole
  • shredded cheese
  • salsa
  • hot pepper mustard


For the meat

  • In a large skillet or saucepan, brown the beef and onion over medium heat, using a spoon or spatula to break it up into small pieces.
    1 lb ground beef (I use 92% lean), ½ medium onion
  • Once browned, about 4-6 minutes, add the chili seasoning, oregano, cumin, and salt. Stir for 30 seconds and add the tomatoes and kidney beans. Turn the heat to a low simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until most of the liquid has reduced.
    1 tbsp chili powder, ½ tsp cumin, 1 tsp dried Mexican oregano, ½ tsp salt, 1 15-oz can red kidney beans, 1 15-oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • Once cooked, remove from heat and set aside.

For the dressing

  • In a dressing shaker or small jar, combine the ketchup, vinegar, honey, Worcestershire sauce, chipotle powder, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and oil. Shake until combined, taste for seasoning, and set aside.
    3 tbsp ketchup, 1 ½ tsp Worcestershire sauce, 2 tsp honey, 2 tbsp red wine vinegar, 1 tsp chipotle powder, ½ tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp onion powder, ⅓ cup neutral oil, ½ tsp salt

For the salad

  • To serve the salad, start with chopped lettuce. Top with some of the meat mixture, chips, dressing, and any garnishes.
    2 heads romaine lettuce, tortilla chips, avocado or guacamole, shredded cheese, salsa, hot pepper mustard


Serving: 1servingCalories: 294kcalCarbohydrates: 24.8gProtein: 18.9gFat: 14.3gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 8.1gTrans Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 35.6mgSodium: 678.8mgPotassium: 874.3mgFiber: 7.7gSugar: 7.2gVitamin A: 720.9IUVitamin C: 11.7mgCalcium: 117.8mgIron: 4.8mg
Course Dinner
Cuisine Southwestern
Difficulty Easy
Method Cooking

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I’m Kaleb! I'm not a chef, professional baker, landscaper, or designer, but I like to play each on Knollgate Farm. Come join me on my journey and let's learn together!

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  1. 4 stars
    Love your videos, both gardening and cooking. Thanks a lot for giving a nod to all of us who are home cooks and bakers

  2. 5 stars
    So enjoy your videos on cooking, decorating, gardening and landscaping. After watching you make a recipe it inspires me to do the same! Taco Salad is on the menu tonight along with margaritas! Thank you for sharing your passion with all of us!

  3. 5 stars
    We loved this taco salad! Don’t skip the dressing, it was such an improvement over the bottled dressing from back in the day.

  4. 5 stars
    Kaleb…from your twinkling eyes, to your honest laughter…you are informational and entertaining. You are someone to emulate! And I’ve decided when I die, I want to come back as your pet. Have an awesome day!